Navigating the Crosswinds of the Lava Ridge Wind Project

The Lava Ridge Wind Project is a contentious focal point of the Magic Valley, drawing attention to the intricate web of executive orders, legislative actions, and local concerns.

Let it be clear — I do not support the Lava Ridge Wind Project.

From the beginning, I have had grave concerns with conflicting Executive Orders out of the Biden Administration. First, he issues an EO asking for large-scale wind and solar development on public lands across the west, and in the same time frame issues an executive order for a 30×30 Conservation Plan. Most recently, the Department of Interior released this rule: ““The Public Lands Rule would establish a framework for protecting and restoring healthy landscapes, abundant wildlife habitat, clean water and balanced decision-making on our nation’s public lands. The proposal would uphold the BLM’s multiple use and sustained yield mission, ensuring the health, diversity, and productivity of public lands for the use and enjoyment of present and future generations. By putting conservation on an equal footing with other uses, the rule would help guide responsible development while safeguarding important places for the millions of people who visit public lands every year to hike, hunt, camp, fish and more.

This proposal comes at a pivotal moment, as our public lands face new and growing challenges. Climate change is driving unprecedented drought and increasingly intense fires, a loss of wildlife, and an influx of invasive species. At the same time, public lands face growing pressure as more intensive recreation use and ongoing development on private land disrupts habitat. This proposal would ensure that the BLM is able to respond to these pressures, managing for healthy lands today so that it can deliver its multiple use mission now and in the future.” Tell me how this makes sense with the EO for large-scale wind and solar development on public land. It does not. 

“Idaho Congressman Mike Simpson – Chairman of the House Interior and Environment Appropriations Subcommittee – issued a statement that would secure a provision related to onshore wind projects in Idaho requiring the Comptroller General to produce a report identifying potential adverse effects of wind energy development. This provision is a result of the Lava Ridge Wind Project proposal.   

“Idahoans expect more out of the use of our public lands,” said Rep. Simpson. “Affected farmers, tribes, and the Japanese American community have raised serious concerns, and it’s clear the project is predominantly opposed.”

Congressman Simpson met with us, the Times-News editorial board, in October and had this to say when I asked him directly about the project. 

“U.S. Senator Jim Risch with Senator Mike Crapo, Congressman Mike Simpson, and Congressman Russ Fulcher introduced the Don’t Develop Obstructive Infrastructure on our Terrain (Don’t DO IT) Act. The Don’t DO IT Act would require the Secretary of the Interior to deny any wind or solar energy project proposed on public land that is disapproved of by the State legislature.” I support these efforts by our congressional delegation. 

The Minidoka National Historic Site, a testament to Idaho’s rich history. The Friends of Minidoka group have been clear about their opposition to this project. Farmers, tribes, sportsmen, conservationists, local elected leaders, and the Japanese American community have united in opposition, emphasizing the need for a balanced and inclusive approach to land management.

Furthermore, we must be able to talk about what Idaho’s long-term energy needs might be. I have expressed my concerns about the removal of some of our coal-generated electricity within the grid–it might be good here to point out that we were importing power from Nevada and Valmy Power Plant–a coal-fired plant. Removal of these fossil plants came years ahead of when the last long range plan expected them to. We also regularly trade power with Bonneville Power to the west. 

We import and export power all the time in Idaho, but what are our long-term needs to meet Idaho’s fast growing energy needs. Water has served us well and will continue to serve us well but alone, cannot meet that demand. Nuclear power is close, expensive, and clean. Can we generate geothermal energy with shale technology? Food waste is also converted locally to renewable energy. 

The public has spoken. 

Laurie Lickley 

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